Jeffrey Howard Archer is a bestselling author in the thriller genre. He is the only writer to have topped all three lists of fiction, non-fiction and short stories to date. His political past has allowed him to bring complexity to his books, giving them an authentic feel. His bestselling series, The Clifton Chronicles, bears testimony to this. The final installment in the series was released in 2016.


Heads You Win has been the talk of the town for its unexpected end. The plot follows the events around a child of Russian origin, Alexander Karpenko. The story is set in 1968 when Alexander’s father is assassinated by the KGB, though he manages to flee to safety with his mother.

Safety meant leaving his country to make a life in either America or Britain. And this is where the book splits into two, giving the reader a parallel narrative about the two lives the child could have had in these two countries. Alexander grows up to make the most of his circumstances, only to end up coming face to face with his past, which is intricately tied to his home country – Russia – and the enemies he left behind.


Archer deserves a lot of credit for the thought he put into the overall structure of the story. For starters, he divides it into two at the perfect moment, which speaks volumes about his execution.

The boat which Alexander boards at the start of the story has two possible destinations. A curious reader is bound to wonder ‘what if’ at this point in the story. And therein lies the genius of Archer, who makes the remainder of the book an answer to this question.

Another highlight of the book is how one character is involved in politics from the get-go while the other gets dragged into it by accident. Heads You Win can actually be a great guide to writers on how to create a complex story from an intricate structure.


For all its positives, the book still leaves a lot to be desired as far as its storytelling is concerned. Abrupt shifts in perspective from one character to the other can potentially confuse many a reader. The ending is rather polarizing as well.

After exploring the major ‘what if’ question at the start of the story, the author inexplicably decides to leave the end to the readers’ interpretation with even more ‘what if’ questions. Heads You Win feels incomplete at best, begging for a sequel. At worst, this may come across as a poorly plotted work with an indeterminate conclusion.


‘But you’ll eventually have to jump one way or the other if you’re hoping to pursue a political career,’ suggested Dangerfield. ‘Unless of course you decide to join the Liberals.’

‘No, sir,’ laughed Sasha. ‘I don’t believe in lost causes.’

‘Neither do I, and I’ve voted Liberal all my life.’


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In conclusion, it is only prudent to pick up Heads You Win for its general plot. It is, however, not meant for readers who are fans of immersive fiction with a satisfactory ending.

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